Tina is seventeen, and lives in a squat in Kings Cross. By day she sleeps, and by night she stands on the street hoping for a mark to make $20 to see her through the next few days. She has worked hard to build up solid walls between what she does, and what she feels, in order to survive the world she is in. But in the opening pages of The Boy Under The Table by Nicole Trope, it seems that Tina has come up against something that will crack those walls. For she has gone home with her mark and there she sees a small boy, tied under a table, with bones sticking out and obviously mistreated. What is Tina to do?
The complex story of Tina and how she ended up on the street, is intertwined with the story of the boy. It turns out that the boy is Lockie Williams, kidnapped from the Sydney Royal Easter Show in what would be any parent’s nightmare. After four months, when he hasn’t been found, his parents Doug and Sarah are almost falling apart as Doug tries to hold the family farm together out at Cootamundra. Local cop Pete does his best to keep them reassured but Lockie has just disappeared. But Tina knows. In fact Tina can’t stop thinking about the boy. He reminds her of another boy, lost to her years before, and she knows that she is probably this boy’s only hope.
Told in parallel narratives, The Boy Under The Table is gripping and I was unable to put it down. Tina’s grim determination to get through each day and night is a realistic reminder of what life can be like for the homeless, even those who choose to be; and then there is the tale of the parents who are left behind and who grieve for a lost child. When Tina realises she has the power to make a difference she resists it as long as she can, knowing that as soon as she starts to feel emotion about the boy she will also be lost.
While the novel seems like it might be harrowing, Tina’s story is told honestly and it becomes a story of hope and of determination, despite the grim beginning.
Available now: Allen & Unwin RRP$29.99